Volume 58 Number 3, March 2007
Buddhist Art: Form & Meaning
|Specifications:||132 pages, 100 illustrations|
|Dimensions:||305 x 241 mm|
Both spatially and temporally, the scope of this book is expansive. Spatially, the eight essays cover a vast swathe of Asia stretching from Mathura in India to Thailand in Southeast Asia, including the Himalayan region. Temporally, the period covered is over a millennium from the 1st century BCE to the 10th century CE. Conceptually, the essays cover both the so-called “aniconic” or the early phase, when Buddha Shakyamuni was not represented in art in the human form as well as the “iconic” period when he began to be portrayed as a divine figure. Each of the eight essays provides fresh material as well as new interpretations of familiar symbols and images.
Pratapaditya Pal is the General Editor of Marg Publications. He has been associated as curator with leading American museums with Indian collections and has taught in several universities. Recognized as an authority on the arts and cultures of the subcontinent, the Himalaya and Southeast Asia, he is a prolific author with over 60 publications.
Pipal Tree, Tonsured Monks, and Ushnisha
The Representation of the Buddha’s Birth and Death in the Aniconic Period
J.E. Van Lohuizen-De Leeuw
Observations on “The Representation of the Buddha’s Birth and Death in the Aniconic Period”
Sonya Rhie Quintanilla
An Unusual Naga-Protected Buddha from Thailand
The Naga-Protected Buddha in the Norton Simon Museum: Further Comments
Joyanto K. Sen
The Karandavyuha Sutra and Buddhist Art in 10th-Century Cambodia
Do Jewelleries Provide Chronological Clues? A Preliminary Study of Wrathful Deities in Pala and Tibetan Art
A 16th-Century Ladakhi School of Buddhist Painting
Erberto Lo Bue
A Pilgrim to the Buddhist Himalayas
The editor explains how the essays in this volume were serendipitously assembled. Spatially, they cover a swathe of Asia from Mathura in India to Cambodia in Southeast Asia, including the Himalayas. Temporally they cover a millennium from the 1st century BCE to the 10th century CE.
Examined here are the significance of three Buddhist symbols. The writer throws new light on them and its wider cultural import and turns to literary sources and artistic evidence going as far back as the Indus Civilization. It furthers our understanding of the Buddha image in particular and Buddhist, and early Indian, art in general.
Pre-Kushana artistic evidence of Mathura has received less attention than its Kushana-period art. A new visual narrative tradition was being introduced by the Buddhists and soon thereafter spread across the subcontinent. The Buddha was represented by substituting symbols. However, a panel from Kausambi and a pillar from Mathura show human representations that belong to the very beginning of the iconic period during the reign of Kanishka. Clearly, the artists did not have to invent new narrative formulas in depicting the life of the Buddha but continued the depictive style devised by their forerunners in the aniconic period.
This essay supplements the late Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw’s, written in 1983, with pertinent observations and studies that were not available to her. Pillars with reliefs of the birth and death scenes of the Buddha are a watershed in the history of early Buddhist art, intimately connected with the early introduction of the image of the Buddha and monks. Such images as formulated and developed in Mathura would later spread the cult of the Buddha image to other sites in the subcontinent.
One incident from the Buddha’s life that appears both as narrative and icon, is of his interaction with the mythical Naga, Muchalinda. The image was familiar in the art of Dvaravati but more popular in 12th-century Cambodia when it became the focus of a special royal cult. This and the following essay demonstrate how one image can reflect ideas that have sources in disparate regions, attesting to the assimilative and creative powers of artists in the Mon-Khmer realm. Taking a rare stone image of the Naga-protected Buddha from Dvaravati as a point of departure, the essay deals with the issue of transmission of iconographic ideas and motifs between India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
Further insights on the same Naga-protected Buddha: the Buddha's asana, the stepped up representation of the Naga's three heads (instead of the usual seven) around the Buddha's nimbus. The discussion corroborates that the sculpture, a prototype of the transition period linking Mon and Khmer statues of the Buddha protected by Naga is likely from north or northeast Thailand, probably carved in the 8th-9th centuries, combining features of Mon and Khmer art with post-Gupta features.
Using three stone sculptures (one in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, one in the Bangkok National Museum, and one in the Honolulu Academy of Art), the author discusses the nature of Buddhism in 10th-century Cambodia. The first sculpture depicts the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in a pose inspired by the Karandavyuha Sutra and bears an inscription that includes the mantra om manipadme hum. The discussion of the second and third sculptures addresses the influence of the Mahavairochana Sutra and the emergence of the Avalokiteshvara-Buddha-Prajnaparamita triad.
An important methodological contribution discussing the manner in which ornaments worn by wrathful deities are depicted in the Buddhist art of the Pala period and how thereafter portraits in Tibet interpreted these elements. The close relationship in the arts of Tibet, the Pala realm, and Nepal are explored. Even when not clothed, the divinities wear an array of jewellery that has symbolic significance. The essay examines these accoutrements in detail and reaches conclusions that may radically affect the dating of Tibetan paintings between the 11th and 15th century.
The writer observes that we have been so enamoured by the brilliance of the earlier wealth of wall paintings surviving in the Western Himalaya, seldom visited by nonspecialists, that later artistic achievements have been ignored. The writer has studied the inscriptions which provide the names of the artists who worked on these murals. This seems to be a distinct feature of Buddhist wall paintings in the Tibetan cultural realm though it is not clear why, in light of Buddhism's insistence on the impernance of name and form.
In Ladakh Buddhism has remained a living religion for well over a millennium. This photoessay on Ladakh's landscape and Buddhist monuments is by a European photographer whose work first revealed the little known glories of the luminous Buddhist murals in the temples at Alchi, Ladakh's most coveted Buddhist heritage.